The war for India’s Internet

Rebecca Mackinnon in Foreign Policy:

“65 years since your independence,” a new battle for freedom is under way in India — according to a YouTube video uploaded by an Indian member of Anonymous, the global “hacktivist” movement. With popular websites like Vimeo.com blocked across India by court order, the video calls for action: “Fight for your rights. Fight for India.” Over the past several weeks, the group has launched distributed denial-of-service attacks against websites belonging to Internet service providers, government departments, India’s Supreme Court, and two political parties.

Street protests are being planned for this coming Saturday, June 9, in as many as 18 cities to protest laws and other government actions that a growing number of Indian Internet users believe have violated their right to free expression and privacy online. A lively national Internet freedom movement has grown rapidly across India since the beginning of this year. The most colorful highlight so far was a seven-day Gandhian hunger strike, otherwise known as a “freedom fast,” held in early May on a New Delhi sidewalk by political cartoonist Aseem Trivedi and activist-journalist Alok Dixit. Trivedi’s website was shut down this year in response to a police complaint by a Mumbai-based advocate who alleged that some of Trivedi’s works “ridicule the Indian Parliament, the national emblem, and the national flag.”

Escalating political and legal battles over Internet regulation in India are the latest front in a global struggle for online freedom — not only in countries like China and Iran where the Internet is heavily censored and monitored by autocratic regimes, but also in democracies where the political motivations for control are much more complicated. Democratically elected governments all over the world are failing to find the right balance between demands from constituents to fight crime, control hate speech, keep children safe, and protect intellectual property, and their duty to ensure and respect all citizens’ rights to free expression and privacy. Popular online movements — many of them globally interconnected — are arising in response to these failures. More:

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